Stalker treatment centre launched
A new medical service for England and Wales specialising in treating stalkers is due to be launched.
The National Stalking Clinic is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.
According to the British Crime Survey one-in-five women and one-in-10 men aged 16 or over have been victims of stalking in its various guises.
BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said until now stalkers were prosecuted but not treated.
Dr Frank Farnham, a consultant psychiatrist who has helped set up the new service, said: "If we can treat stalkers, then we can save lives.
"There is great need for a co-ordinated national service that can provide specialist advice and treatment.
"The psychological impact on victims is corrosive, with many suffering months and, in some cases, years of harassment leading to a variety of illnesses including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress.
"Victims live in a permanent state of hyper-alertness which is physically and mentally draining."
Our correspondent said offenders who made unwanted phone calls, sent unsolicited emails, followed or harassed the objects of their affections were usually subject to restraining orders.
But under the new approach courts will be able to refer stalkers for assessment, treatment and rehabilitation.
They will be dealt with by a team of medical experts based at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, north London.
Doctors running the service say an 18-month course of treatment will cost up to £10,000 but they claim it will be cheaper and more effective than a short prison sentence.
But Dr Farnham said a typical assessment could cost between £1,500 and £2,000 and would be paid for by the court which sentenced the individual.
Alexis Bowater, chief executive of UK charity Network for Surviving Stalking, said: "The launch of this clinic is a groundbreaking move and makes the UK one of the world leaders in tackling this devastating crime.
"The treatment and rehabilitation of stalkers is vital if we are to stop lives being lost to stalking."
Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone said: "I'm pleased to support the launch of this unique clinic that aims to prevent stalkers from reoffending.
"I've made stalking one of my priorities and it's included in the government's report Call To End Violence Against Women and Girls.
"We're also asking people for their views on how the police should tackle this devastating crime and whether current laws are adequate," she added.